Ross County manager Stuart Kettlewell does not expect the long lay-off endured by today’s Premiership opponents Motherwell to play into the Staggies’ hands.
The Steelmen have not played since going down 5-1 to Rangers on September 27, with their last two scheduled league matches against Kilmarnock and St Mirren called off due to their opponents being unable to field a team because of coronavirus.
Stephen Robinson’s men were also not part of the Betfred Cup group stage, having qualified for Europe after finishing third last season.
Despite Well’s lack of action, Kettlewell is preparing for the Lanarkshire side to be at their strongest at Fir Park today.
Kettlewell said: “I’m always a wee bit reluctant to comment on it. If they’d played loads of games, people would ask if they’re going to be fatigued.
“If they haven’t played many games does it mean they are fresh? I know how Stephen Robinson prepares his teams and how fit they are.
“I’m expecting Motherwell to be fresh and raring to go, as well as some guys who’ve played on international duty. They will have been working hard in that period of time. I always prepare for facing the best version of a team.”
County made a winning start to the season against Well in August, with Ross Stewart’s penalty securing a 1-0 triumph at Victoria Park.
The Staggies have also won at Fir Park in each of the two previous campaigns, winning 2-1 in the Scottish Cup in January 2019 during their time in the Championship, before triumphing by the same scoreline in a league outing last September.
Kettlewell believes the Steelmen pose a different threat this term, adding: “We’ve got a pretty decent record over Motherwell, certainly since I’ve been involved as manager.
“They are a wee bit different from what we faced in the first game of the season. We were used to Motherwell playing that 4-3-3 all the time and they were very well-versed in it.
“There’s been a tweak to their system and they are using a back three, wing-backs and a front pairing as it stands. I still think we’re going up against one of the top teams in the country.
“If you look at their squad and the international players they can call upon, then they’re a good side. We know we will have to be at our absolute best to get something out of the game.”
County will be without defender Connor Randall who became the Staggies’ third player to be sent off in the opening 11 games in last weekend’s 0-0 draw with Hibernian, following dismissals for Carl Tremarco and Iain Vigurs earlier in the campaign.
Kettlewell is not concerned about the record, adding: “Is discipline becoming an issue? Definitely not.
“I want my team to be a reflection of me and how I was as a player, how I am as a person.
“I’m a combative person and was the same as a player – and I picked up more yellow and red cards than most. I’m not encouraging it, but I would still like my team to be competitive. I don’t want us to just roll over and get our belly tickled.
“It’s important we’re really competitive in games and I’ve seen that a lot, probably only with the exception of the Aberdeen game where I felt we were completely undone. We have to be more intelligent in how we go about it.
“The situation with Connor Randall on Saturday is completely avoidable. We speak all the time about clearances from corners and how we deal with that two versus one situation.
“We’ve not had any situations where our players are going about punching people off walls or kicking people off the ball.
“It has been in the nature of the game, which is to be competitive and make sure you’re against your direct opponent – nothing stupid.”